If you or a family member was recently arrested for a first offense driving under the influence (DUI) crime, it is important to know what the future holds. The more you know about the criminal justice process surrounding DUI charges, the more peace of mind you can have about what comes next. For legal advice pertaining to your specific DUI case in Arizona, consult with a Scottsdale first offense DUI attorney.
The Arrest Process
The first part of a DUI case is the arrest. The law enforcement officer needs probable cause to pull you over. The officer must make the traffic stop for a valid reason, such as a broken traffic law. Then, if something alerts the officer to potential intoxication, he or she may ask you to take a breathalyzer or field sobriety test.
Although you can refuse a breathalyzer, this will result in automatic driver’s license suspension. Refusing the test can also serve as evidence against you, as a prosecutor could argue that you refused the test because you knew you would fail.
You can and should, however, politely refuse to take a field sobriety test. These tests are not mandatory and are notoriously biased. A driver can fail a field sobriety test for many reasons, such as medical conditions or pre-existing injuries. Politely explain that you are willing to take a blood, urine or breath test, but not a field sobriety test.
Do not resist arrest and do not answer any questions asked by the police officer other than your name. You have the right to remain silent until you have an attorney present to help you answer questions in a way that will not be self-incriminating. Try to stay calm and call an attorney as soon as you are allowed to do so.
Your Criminal Trial
The next phase is the criminal trial. If the county decides to proceed with a case against you, you will attend an arraignment hearing where you will learn the exact charges. Then, you will wait (either at home or in jail) for your criminal hearing. You have the right to hire an attorney to represent you.
A DUI defense lawyer will have special skills, experience and knowledge to improve the outcome of your case. The fact that this is your first DUI will work in your favor; your lawyer can use your lack of a criminal history to convince the courts to dismiss or diminish the charges and penalties you face.
Your lawyer may be able to get your case thrown out with an argument based on lack of probable cause, faulty alcohol tests or insufficient evidence. Otherwise, your lawyer may be able to talk down the charges against you, such as negotiating a felony to a misdemeanor, based on the circumstances of the case and your criminal history. An attorney can attend hearings and pretrial conferences on your behalf.
Penalties for a First Offense DUI in Arizona
A DUI conviction in Arizona can change your life. Although the penalties are less severe for a first-time DUI compared to subsequent driving under the influence crimes, they can still be enough to take away many of your freedoms. The typical penalties for a first offense DUI in Arizona include:
- A minimum of 24 hours in jail, up to a maximum of six months.
- Fines and fees ranging from $250 to $2,500.
- mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for up to one year.
- Driver’s license suspension from 90 to 360 days.
- Mandatory drug or alcohol counseling and traffic school.
- Mandatory community service time.
These penalties can increase if the DUI is classified as severe or extreme. This could be the case if your blood alcohol concentration level was double the legal limit or higher, or if you caused serious bodily injuries while driving under the influence.
If you are facing first-time DUI charges in Arizona, do not hesitate to contact a defense attorney for legal advice.